Mental Health Hygiene

Mental Health Hygiene refers to the development, maintenance, and promotion of necessary behaviour, emotional, and social skills to sustain good, effective, and efficient mental health.

While mental health hygiene habits may vary from person to person, it is important to identify those that work best for us and to integrate them into our daily routine.

Examples of Mental Health Hygiene Habits:

Be Mindful: 

  • Mindfulness is a mental state of being engaged in the present moment without evaluating or emotionally reacting to it
  • ​There are many ways to practice mindfulness, and you don’t have to be a Buddhist monk to do it.  One of the simplest ways is to pay attention to your breath, because that is always here and now. You simply sit and breathe, watching your breath as it goes in and out.  You can also practice mindful walking, where you walk slowly and feel each footstep. You can eat mindfully, keeping your attention on the smell, texture and taste of food. You can do dishes or laundry mindfully. Anything you do, you can do it with mindful awareness of the experience as it is happening. You can also learn to observe your own thoughts and feelings, and therefore be aware of your internal experiences rather than just being swept up in them.

Get a Better Night’s Sleep: 

  • The term sleep hygiene is used to describe good sleep habits.

TIPS TO GETTING A BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP:

GET REGULAR: One of the best ways to train your body to sleep well is to go to bed and get up at more or less the same time every day, even on weekends and days off! This regular rhythm will make you feel better and will give your body something to work from.

SLEEP WHEN SLEEPY:Only try to sleep when you actually feel tired or sleepy, rather than spending too much time awake in bed.

GET UP & TRY AGAIN: If you haven’t been able to get to sleep after about 20 minutes or so, get up and do something calming or boring until you feel sleepy, then return to bed and try again. Sit quietly on the couch with the lights off (bright light will tell your brain that it is time to wake up), or read something boring like the phonebook. Avoid doing anything that is too stimulating or interesting, such as checking Facebook, as this will wake you up even more.

AVOID CAFFEINE & NICOTINE: It is best to avoid consuming any caffeine (e.g., coffee, tea, cola-drinks, chocolate, and some medications) or nicotine (cigarettes) for at least 4 to 6 hours before going to bed. These substances act as stimulants and interfere with the ability to fall sleep.

AVOID ALCOHOL & OTHER SEDATIVES: It is also best to avoid alcohol for at least 4 to 6 hours before going to bed. Contrary to popular belief that alcohol is relaxing and helps them to get to sleep, it actually interrupts the quality of sleep. Other sedatives, including sleep medications, can impair one’s ability to have quality deep sleep.

BED IS FOR SLEEPING: Try not to use your bed for anything else other than sleeping, so that your body comes to associate bed with sleep. If you use your bed as a place to watch TV, eat, read, work on your laptop, pay bills, and other things, your body will not learn this connection.

AVOID DAYTIME NAPPING: It is best to avoid taking naps during the day, to make sure that you are tired at bedtime. If you can’t make it through the day without a nap, make sure it is less than an hour and before 3pm.

ESTABLISH SLEEP RITUALS: You can develop your own rituals of things to remind your body that it is time to sleep – some people find it useful to do relaxing stretches or breathing exercises for 15-minutes before bed each night, or sit calmly with a cup of caffeine-free tea.

BATH TIME: Having a hot bath 1-2 hours before bedtime can be useful, as it will raise your body temperature, causing you to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops again. Research shows that sleepiness is associated with a drop in body temperature.

NO CLOCK-WATCHING: Many people who struggle with sleep tend to watch the clock too much. Frequently checking the time during the night can wake you up (especially if you turn on the light to read the time or use your phone) and reinforces negative thoughts such as “oh no, look how late it is, I’ll never get to sleep”. If necessary, hide or remove the bedroom clock.

EXERCISE: Regular exercise is a great idea to help with good sleep, but try not to do strenuous exercise in the 4-hours before bedtime. Morning walks are a good way to start the day feeling refreshed!

SUNLIGHT: Get plenty of sunlight, as it helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.

EAT RIGHT: A healthy, well-balanced diet will help you to sleep well, but timing is important. Some people find that a very empty stomach at bedtime is distracting, so it can be useful to have a light snack, but a heavy meal soon before bed can also interrupt sleep. Some people recommend a warm glass of milk, which contains tryptophan, which acts as a natural sleep inducer.

THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT: It is very important that your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable for sleeping. A cooler room with enough blankets to stay warm is best, and make sure you have curtains or an eye-mask to block out early morning light and earplugs if there is noise outside your room.

  • minimise external noise (use earplugs if necessary)
  • keep the bedroom clean and tidy
  • make sure the bedroom is a comfortable temperature
  • introduce pleasant smells such as a drop of lavender oil onto the pillow
  • get extra pillows

KEEP DAYTIME ROUTINE THE SAME: Even if you have a bad night sleep and are tired it is important that you try to keep your daytime activities the same as you had planned. That is, don’t avoid activities because you feel tired. This can reinforce and maintain the insomnia.

  • Everyday, write down three things you are grateful for. The challenge: you have to name 3 different things each day.

REASONS WHY EXPRESSING GRATITUDE IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH:

1. GRATITUDE IMPROVES PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH

Gratitude reduces a multitude of negative emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Research has shown that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.

2. GRATITUDE IMPROVES PHYSICAL HEALTH

Grateful people experience fewer aches and pain and they report feeling healthier than those who don’t cultivate gratitude. Grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health, and are reported to exercise more often than others.

3. GRATITUDE IS GOOD FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIPS

Showing appreciation can help foster new friendships. For instance, one study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.

4. GRATITUDE HELPS WITH SLEEP

​Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.

5. GRATITUDE FOSTERS RESILIENCE

For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. Recognising all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – fosters resilience.

It is helpful to hear encouraging words during times of intense emotional distress. Sometimes a supportive friend or partner is not around to provide us with the emotional support and comfort that we may desire. In these times, we must be capable of providing ourselves with this comfort.

Using positive statements can help us develop a new attitude to ourselves and our situations. Choose a statement from those below, or make one that means more to you, and repeat it to yourself throughout the day, everyday, of every week, of every month. Use a statement that starts with “I” and use the present tense (e.g., I am strong; I am determined).

Exercise makes you feel good because it releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. It can also get you out in the world, help to reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation, and put you in touch with other people.

If you exercise regularly , it can reduce your stress and symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, and help with recovery from mental health issues.

Exercise also helps improves your sleep, which is also important for mental health hygiene.